Recent news outlets have been covering a case where a Texas woman awoke from surgery with a… British accent! If you’re anything like me (and everyone else who’s buzzing about this story), your eyebrows probably raised in a suspicious manner.
Waking up from surgery or a head injury with a foreign accent isn’t impossible, but it’s not too common. A small amount of individuals develop a speech pattern that is different than their own. This occurrence is known as “Foreign Accent Syndrome.” It is considered a rare condition in which patients develop what is perceived as a “foreign accent.”
However, many researchers argue that the new speech pattern is in fact not an accent development, but a change in timing, pitch, and pronunciations due to damage to the brain’s linguistic center.
The earliest studied case of Foreign Accent Syndrome is from 1941 where a woman in Oslo was struck by shrapnel following a German air raid. Following her recovery, her speech evolved to have an altered rhythm and melody.
According to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association, speech therapy has been proven beneficial across case studies. Research suggests that minimal pair techniques with a focus on specific consonant and vowel targets can increase awareness of speech production and improve articulatory accuracy. Additionally, therapists frequently use techniques used in accent modification to benefit these rare cases.
See for yourself! The below links show two cases where individuals have developed “Foreign Accent Syndrome”
Lisamarie Ricigliano M.S. CF-SLP, TSSLD